The Washington Post

Lance Armstrong doping allegations

May 24, 2011

Post sports reporter and co-author of Lance Armstrong's book "It's Not About The Bike: My Journey Back to Life " Sally Jenkins discussed the recent drug allegations against Armstrong.

Related: Lance Armstrong Tour de France titles in jeopardy

Hi everybody, let's get started. There are a ton of questions and I won't get to all of them, so I apologize in advance. Let me begin by stressing that Lance Armstrong is a friend of mine and anything I have to say about him starts with that simple fact. My take on him is purely personal.

I know that in the past you've defended Lance against doping allegations. In light of the fact that George Hincapie (someone without any axe to grind against Lance) evidently testified to the grand jury about Lance's doping, can you still take that position? Hincapie still has not spoken out publicly against Lance yet obviously could not perjure himself under oath. To me, this is far more damning than the Hamilton interview.

As I've always said, my take on Lance is just that, my personal take. I try not to defend or condemn him, and I'm certainly not his mouthpiece. I just try to relate what I know about him through my personal experience with him, and my take on him is obviously colored by friendship and affection. I hope he's clean, and I wish for him to be clean.  As for George Hincapie, it's not clear yet whether he indeed testified against Lance to the grand jury, but yes, Hincapie would be by far the most credible and damning accuser, certainly.

Hi. I don't understand the fraud allegations. I get the lying to federal investigators but what federal law was in jeopardy because he won a bunch of races with questionable additives?

That's a really good question, and I wish I could answer it definitively, but the investigators haven't made it clear. They appear to be trying to build a case that Lance not only used performance enhancers, but was some sort of distributor of them. And by the way, there is no sign he has lied to federal investigators. So far as I know, they haven't interviewed him.

Tony Kornheiser said on his readio show he called you Sunday night during the Tyler Hamilton interview and asked you if you were watching and you said no. How come you didn't watch it?

I was traveling from Florida back to New York when the show aired, as Mister Tony knows. When he called me I had just gotten in a cab at the airport. However, I've read the transcripts, and best of all I've read our own Amy Shipley's coverage, which I think is the most informative. I will sit down at some point and watch a tape of the interview.

Sally, I LOVED the book and it remains on my bookshelf. I have been a Lance lover since Motorolla, the brash Texan taking the world by storm in the World Championships. What kind of jealousy did you see from Tyler Hamilton of Lance's stardom?

Thanks, It's Not About the Bike was a joy to work on.. I only interviewed Tyler once, and thought he seemed like a nice guy and tremendous cyclist. I didn't get the impression he was hugely jealous of Lance, but this was ten years ago when both were much younger and far less accomplished men. My impression was that they were distant, not particularly close, and obviously all cyclists would like to someday lead their own team, and are waiting for the leader to falter. So there is a weird dynamic in the sport, a certain amount of competition even within a team. Sort of like starting and reserve quarterbacks in the NFL. 

It seems to me that whether Lance cheated to win the tour misses the point. After all, listening to his accusers, the picture emerges of a sport in which the only way to compete on a level field was to dope - since everyone else was. Obviously Lance was an exceptional athlete either way. The real question is how do we/you get our head around the magnitude of the lies? Is it reasonable to question Lance's sincerity in the whole cancer fight. Is it possible that, by pushing one of the most emotional buttons there is, he has been able to manipulate us into not wanting to look to hard at how he got so big? I'm a cancer survivor and a former big fan of Lance. I found so much inspiration in his story and became a cycling fan. It hurts that so much evidence points to him as huge liar.

I don't think its reasonable to question Lance's sincerity in the whole cancer fight. He whipped testicular cancer fair and square, and he has worked tirelessly to raise money for cancer research, about 400 million dollars worth, and he also helped passes a $1 billion bond issue in Texas to fund cancer research. I've never seen him too big or too tired to talk to a cancer patient.

After everything that we've now heard, do you really still believe that Armstrong never doped?

Everybody has their version of Lance Armstrong, and I have mine. The things we've heard don't line up with the guy I know. That's my best answer. He told me point blank, "I didn't use performance enhancers," and I accept his answer because he's my friend and that's what you do with friends. I judge him the way  I suppose anyone on this site would want to be judged: based on personal interactions.

I hope for Lance to be clean, I wish for him to be clean, mainly because he told me he was. That said, anyone who has watched cycling over the last 15 years would have to be in a state of willful denial not to know it's a possibility. And obviously its a far more difficult question today than it was last week -- but here's the thing. My respect for Lance and my relationship with him has never been based on what he did in the Tour de France. It was based on doing a book together about cancer that we both took a lot of pride in, and I want to make something clear. Lance can never disappoint me. He's a good and even fine human being in my estimation.

I just find it hard to believe that someone who had undergone such a difficult course of treatment to cure his cancer, would take the chance of putting additional drugs and chemicals in his body... but maybe winning tops everything with these top athletes.

Well, this was always why I found Lance persuasive when he told me he didn't use performance enhancers. I remember once back in 1999 or 2000, he said to me, "I still feel like I'm getting all the poisons out of my body." He felt so infected by the cancer and the chemo, and he clearly craved health. So from a visceral standpoint, I had a hard time believing he would load up on a bunch of chemicals.

Although I've always thought it possible that Lance doped--it was clear the vast majority of the peleton did just that--my theory was that Lance attempted to find legal ways to achieve the same results as others achieved through doping. I figured his association with Michele Ferrari was less about obtaining drugs and more about finding out what the drugs did, and whether techniques such as sleeping in an oxygen tent would produce the same results. Alas, it really does seem he doped like everyone else (meaning he is no better, and no worse, than other cyclists). I suppose that's one more explanation why he raced in so few events aside from the TdF--easier to avoid doping controls when you're not racing.

Thanks for the interesting thoughts. This was always my impression of Lance's association with Ferrari, who he expressed huge respect for as a cycling expert, and who he also expressed was a personal friend. By the way, I've never met Ferrari, he was never around when I was working with Lance, so my knowledge of him is limited to secondhand. For a good comprehensive story on Ferrari there was a piece in Bicycling back in 2006 that is a fascinating read. The conclusion of the piece is equivocal, but it makes it clear that Ferrari had some inspired methods quite apart from doping.

Why hasn't LA come out publically with a strong anti-doping stance if he's clean?

Lance always expressed a strong antidoping stance to me. But he also expressed strong feelings that the science needs to be better, and the legal thought behind it needs to be better.

Doping was rampant in the peleton during those years of the first few Armstrong wins. I find it difficult to imagine that clean riders had a chance given the competition from talented riders that we know doped, Riis, Pantani, Ullrich, Vinokourov, Basson and others

This is of course the prevalent view. But I will say this: there is no question in my mind that Lance revolutionized and professionalized training for the Tour de France. His rehearsals for the mountain stages, his use of computer readouts, his weighing of every morsel of pasta, his understanding of how to change his pedal stroke, or find the right bodyweight for an ascent without losing power, his general attention to detail, was new.

Do you think he used performance enhancing products/procedures? If he was against , why did he allow teammates to do it?

I can only pass on what Lance always told me -- and we wrote this in It's Not About the Bike: he said that he didn't use performance enhancers but he explored every inch of the gray area. He looked for ways to simulate EPO, for instance, he slept in an altitude tent, which can boost your red blood cell count, and which the governing bodies have considered banning. As for his teammates, it wasn't up to him allow or disallow anything his teammates did. He was basically the quarterback of the team, the Peyton Manning of the Tour squad. He could encourage and demand, but  if he had faltered physically, someone else would have become the leader.  I'll also tell you that Lance and I disagree philosophically about drug testing. I've been consistent for years that I think the system doesn't work, scientifically or legally, and that it should be scrapped. Athletes' bodies should be matters of personal health and conscience, to me. Lance always told me he disagreed, he thought a system was needed. 

Hello, I think he did it. I don't really know much about cycling but I look at him as a human, not just a guy who won the tour seven times. I, along with some women I know, think he's a jerk--multiple partners, multiple kids---and he doesn't seem like a stand up in that regard. But, he gets his back end kissed everywhere he goes and maybe he will get his comeuppance. Thanks.

Well, that's your take. Mine is different. He's a good Dad, and he seems to be on pretty good terms with Kristin, his former wife, who is lovely. Look, Lance isn't perfect. We tried real hard to make that perfectly clear on Page One of It's Not About the Bike. He's not a fairly tale. He's a man, a flawed one, who got stricken with cancer and was very lucky to survive, and who found a way to perform in one of the most grueling sports in the world despite having been mortally sick. And who then went on to raise nearly half a billion dollars for cancer research. I respect him and think he's a good man, no matter what.

This would truly be upsetting to many many people who have been inspired by Lance's work for cancer etc. I will believe it is NOT true, until Lance himself says otherwise. Until then, it is all allegations.

And yet another take. 

I saw the 60 Min. interview of Hamilton - less than convincing. The blinking eyes, averted vision, among other signs are classic physical indicators of lying (not that I pretend to be an expert). If they hope to nail Armstrong, they'd better have more than a few 'confessors" who are trying to avoid prison themselves. Any hard evidence?

The hard evidence is what Tyler Hamilton or anyone else testified to before a grand jury under oath. That's what matters. Many people find Hamilton believable, the Armstrong camp says he embellished and was seeking a book deal, etc. For the best coverage, read Amy Shipley in the Washington Post, her summaries about the legal implications are always the most clear and concise. The possibility of what criminal charges could come out of this are murky at best. What's less murky is that the U.S. AntiDoping agency, which has a much lower legal standard of proof, will try to jerk at least some of his seven Tour titles.

Did Lance ever take EPO during his cancer treatment?

Yes. a very good and interesting question. Indeed he did. EPO is a synthetic form of a natural hormone that builds red blood cells. It's used to treat people who have anemia and various forms of cancer. Lance was given EPO because the four brutal chemo regimens he underwent were destroying his blood. Basically, chemo is a race to see which will die first, the cancer, or you. EPO helps keep you alive while you're undergoing it.

It does seem that the most damaging revelations are those from George Hincapie; a close friend and teammate with no axe to grind and who would have likely said nothing if he were not required to testify in an official proceeding. How can George's revelations be explained?

It's not established yet that George Hincapie has indeed made damaging revelations about Lance to a grand jury, but that's what CBS is reporting. Yes, Hincapie would be by far the most credible accuser of Lance. They are close friends.

I don't get it. Why this obession really with getting Lance to say he was doped? At the end of the day there is no public record of a positive test. Did he do it? Only he really knows. Do I care? Not really. He either did what everyone else was doing and beat them because it is a better athlete or he didn't do what everyone else did and beat them because is an amazingly better athlete. But what purpose does this serve? What greater good comes from this?

This comes pretty close to my personal view.  I'm convinced that Lance Armstrong was the greatest cyclist in the world, just as I was convinced Marion Jones was the fastest woman in the world.

But let's forget Lance for a second. I don't think the current anti-drug campaign in sports is working on any front. It's criminalizing athletes without getting at the real problem, or philosophical difficulties or tough questions. How do we convince kids to protect their health better? How do we grapple with the fact that many sports, like cycling or NFL football, are profoundly injurious to the health of the competitors? What is the difference between doping and therapy? What is a real competitive advantage - isnt poverty a much greater competitive disadvantage? Do these substances really work? It puzzles me that no one ever addresses or explains a central fact in the Balco case: Jones actually got a little slower on Balco products in the run-up to the Athens Olympics. These are some of my thoughts, but I'm pretty counterintuitive on the subject, and there are legions who disagree with me.

Good afternoon; so I can understand a baseball player getting away with doping but Lance Armstrong was one of the most tested people on the planet. If any of it is true, how in the world could he have masked it that well that long? The French certainly weren't covering for him.

See above.

Sally, What are the ramifications for George Hincappi and Levi Leipheimer in light of recent events? Both former members of USPS have gone on to do great things for American cycling and have been largely left out of the conversation. As a fan of both men, should I assume that both used alongside of Lance even in the absence of a positive test? And, if the new standard for guilt or innocence is former teammates on a book tour sitting down in a hotel room and talking to 60 minutes, why test at all? Negative does not mean innocent, and for Contador last year at the Tour, positive does not mean guilty.

Interesting views and some good points. I don't think you should assume anything about anyone unless there is an indictment or a direct admission from someone. And the antidoping authorities have some explaining to do about Contador.

If I heard 60 Minutes right on Sunday, the issue of fraud has to do with the fact that Armstrong was sponsored by the Postal Service and he and his teammates signed affidavits attesting that they would compete drug free. If that wasn't the case, he's committed a financial fraud against a federal government entity. That could be a huge problem.

Yes, that's correct, that's the case the investigators appear to be trying to build. Whether it's legit and will result in a grand jury indictment is another  question.

If Armstrong was taking drugs before or during races, why did testing not reveal this? And if the French and UCI officials disliked him, why would the UCI cover up for him, as is charged?

I don't know. That's my honest answer to some good questions. Sorry, but there it is.

Do you feel that given your personal relationship with Lance that you can be objective about his innocence or guilt? The amount of circumstantial evidence is enormous.

The very last thing I am when it comes to Lance is objective. I arrived in Austin to start writing Its Not About the Bike on the day his first son was born. At the time, he was a shellshocked first time champion of the Tour who was a white-knuckled public speaker, and who still didn't know if the cancer would come back. That's the Lance I know best. And by the way, I think I get the best of him. The Lance I spent time with was open and relaxed and funny, if shy, and he liked to wear flip flips and drink beer. He was very tentative about his health. I liked him, and still like him, enormously. Anything I have to say about him is personal. Also, he gave me a huge success  and thrill ride with It's Not About the Bike, and paid me handsomely at a time when I was an out of work freelancer. 

Hi Sally, huge fan of your work. I live in an area of the country populated by lots of pro cyclists and, for the most part, it's a commonly-held belief that dopes. Why do you think these allegations are so shocking? Not a person in my city would bat an eyelash.

And yet another view.

Sally, I hope you soon see the fallacy in the defense that, if Lance cheated, it is partly forgiven because he did so much to fight cancer. You have implied this in some of your responses. The point is that (had Lance cheated) we'll never know what other champions would have emerged and what their cause might have been and what good they could have done for the world. Lance was able to raise money and be an inspiration BECAUSE he was champion. If his winning was ill begotten, then it was all mere fraud, pure and simple.

I don't agree with that, and I don't think many of the eight million cancer patients agree with that either. There is a very large group of people who have a relationship with Lance Armstrong that is based on the fact that he fought his way out of a hospital bed against incredible odds. He whipped cancer fair and square and his experience in that area a lot of people find invaluable. And to me, it stands apart from his cycling.

Correct me I'm wrong, but it seems to me that you're among the sports writers who have come down hardest on baseball players who have merely been accused of using PEDS, but never tested positive or indicted for such usage. The only distinction that I see here is that Armstrong is your friend. Is that fair?

No, I think I've been consistent over the years that I think the antidoping efforts are on the wrong track, legally and philosophically. WADA and USADA aren't, so far as I can see, curbing the use of performance enhancers or convincing young athletes to do anything different. I'd rather see taxpayer funds put into education of athletes instead of prosecutions. And I was on record with my opinion that the government pursuits of Marion Jones and Barry Bonds were useless and misplaced.

for taking questions and standing up for your friend and his accomplishments, particulary for his incredible philanthropic work. I would like to believe he didn't dope. I don' t, however, and wish he would just come out and admit it. Enough with the deflections and denials.

Thanks for the comment. Appreciate it.

How much of this is really the culture of the Tour de France? As far as I can tell "dope" has been a part of the race since day 1. Only Tommy Simpson's death got people to realize there was a downside to the doping.

Doping historically has been a part of all sport. In the old days cyclists took strychnine and brandy. The ancient Greeks chewed all sorts of grotesque, supposedly performance enhancing substances. 

Could this have been an anti-cancer treatment he was still undergoing, if he took it at all while racing?

Much as I like Lance, that would be a long shot. If they find evidence that he had EPO in him during a Tour, I have to think it would be because he put it there.

You certainly have a unique perspective on all of this. I was a cycling fan for many years before Lance came along, and so was excited about his wins but have never tied all of the sport with his victories. But, for a long time I was willing to give him a very generous benefit of the doubt about doping allegations. No more. As pointless as Novitsky's investigation is, it is the natural consequence of pro athletes breaking the rules. People like to use some elastic morality to say that doping is okay when others dope, etc., but ultimately this is false. Anyone who dopes for performance knows he or she is breaking the rules, or at a minimum doing something that is morally dubious. These athletes should be held accountable for those choices. Too bad their personal choices will have such profound and broad consequences on those around them, including their fans. These are not happy days.

Thanks for the reflection. I agree, mostly. But one of the questions cycling may need to ask is, what is the level playing field any more? There are other troubling questions we might should ask, too: isn't some form of medical help acceptable in a sport that ruins the body? If so, how do we define cheating versus therapy? Does intent count?

So far I have seen lots of smoke but no fire. But one has to think fire when there is smoke. Do we have to bring all our winners down? He did pass hundreds of test. What did they miss?

Good question. My colleague Amy Shipley wrote an excellent story a few weeks back that suggested the doping system is not catching the people it should, while sweeping up some fairly benign athletes who ingested substances accidentally. It's worth a read.

Can Lance Armstrong separate his cycling ego from his fundraising cancer work and ultimate legacy? One may have led to another, but if the first (cycling) is discredited, can the second (his work for cancer research and as an inspirational figure) continue and succeed? Or is it really about the bike? Steve Klein, George Mason University

It will be interesting to see. So far, Lance's foundation continues to boom, and apparently its supporters are unfazed. Lance tweeted today that the work continues without distraction.

As we learn about more and more riders using PEDs, at what point will the story that Lance was clean but dominated a field of riders who were using PEDs simply become unbelievable?

Obviously that point has been arrived at for a lot of readers, and some of them have commented here. 

I'm unfortunately heading towards the conclusion that Lance used PEDs but he was just more disciplined than most of his competitors in his approach to using them (i.e., knowing how to avoid detection and not varying from protocol) so he never got caught. Is this reasonable?

It's certainly reasonable. But he was tested so often, with pop quizzes, especially in the last couple of years, and preserved and retested his specimens, that I began to find the negative results persuasive. They even took locks of his hair at one point. I remember Robin Williams teasing him that they treated his urine like chardonnay.

Hypothetical: If Lance were to admit he had used everything he's accused of, would you talk to him again? Would such an admission harm your professional relationship/friendship with him? Again, hypothetical: What would such an admission do to your memories of writing books with him?

Of course I would talk to him -- and would try to persuade him to give me the interview. No, such an admission would not harm my friendship with him, though I would give him a certain amount of hell for subjecting me to some awkward questions. As for my memories of writing with him, it was a joy. It's Not About the Bike literally felt good to type. The transcripts of our interviews were gripping -- I wont ever forget his chemo nurse, LaTrice Haney, who he loved, telling me that when he was at his sickest, she said, "My goal is to get you out of this hospital and never see you again. Because if I don't see you that will mean you're health."  I wouldn't trade that book for anything.

How much has Armstrong's Livestrong campaign been a calculated gambit to provide him political protection from what he knew would be allegations of doping?

Well, if it was a gambit, it was a damn useful one to cancer patients, and researchers, who got $400 million out of it. I will file this question as the single most cynical thing I've ever heard. But thanks for writing.

I don't know if Lance took PEDs or not, but hey, he is a cancer survivor who was given almost no change of overcoming the disease and has come back to win in a sport where almost everyone has doped. So even if he doped himself, it only got him to the same level as everyone else. So it is still an amazing accomplishment. If he had been the only one doping then it would be a different story. I have been a cycling fan for over 20 years. I cannot imagine a harder sport.

Anyone who has actually seen the Tour de France firsthand has to sympathize with the riders. It's an event of absolutely authentic suffering. I saw a mountain stage once and some of the riders eyes were blood red from the strain. At the finish of the race, they re emaciated.

Were the tests that occurred during any of the Tours that Lance won somehow not sophisticated enough to detect performance enhancing drugs people are now saying he used? I thought that tests were in place then. What was the point of subjecting cyclists to tests at that time if they can be disproved by testimony?

These are very good questions. The initial philosophy behind drug testing was that it would be definitive, and there would be zero tolerance -- if something was found in your body the tests would be unassailable and you were guilty, no matter how it got there. Which I've always found objectionable, especially once it became clear the science wasn't foolproof. Then a few years ago the U.S. anti-doping agency added something called "a non analytic positive," which allowed them to build cases against athletes without a definitive result. Which is what Lance is facing.

If Lance were convicted of perjury or drug distribution would he be required to return sponsorship money, go to jail, etc? It seems to be that there is no case yet other than accusations and no physical evidence. Seems the Feds have a long way to go to build a case.

I would think a conviction would result in jail and sponsors seeking refunds etc. But we don't have an indictment yet, so...

On the grand scale of things, how bad is EPO in relation to other kinds of doping? Meaning, if he did this (and I withhold judgment), is it worse than steroids? I personally believe him but maybe I'm naive. I saw him in his last TDF in 2009 too. I dearly hope everyone else is wrong and he will prevail.

Well, this is a good question. Are there degrees of guilt based on substances? Steroids and HGH are controlled substances on the level of barbiturates. I don't know that athletes using them without a prescription is any different than Sylvester Stallone using HGH to stay fit and win parts, and we don't seem to be pursuing him through the courts. It's an interesting question why we find it so much more objectionable for athletes to use substances without scrip, than Lindsay Lohan, who certainly has an influence on young women. That one baffles me. The wonderful writer Eric Shlosser, who did a book called Busted about the war on marijuana, notes that American society goes through vengeance cycles when it comes to drugs, and I think maybe we're in one. That's my opinion as a columnist.

Was Lance Armstrong ever on testosterone replacement therapy? By this question, I mean strictly the legitimately prescribed sort, post-orchiectomy.

Boy that is a very good question, and a good possibility but I dont know the answer. I'm sure I knew it at one time but the book was written ten years ago.

With the hundreds upon hundreds of passed tests, how could that possibly be ignored in favor of testimony from cyclists that have admitted to doping? Are they claiming that Lance somehow found a way to beat the tests?

Obviously, Lance is counting on the tests to hold up as evidence in his favor, and also the testimony of other teammates who contradict Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, as Sergei Ekimov did today. But yes, one allegation is that Lance covered up a positive test.

From the time Lance's cancer diagnosis was announced, I've suspected it was connected to doping. Now that we know he was doping, how sure can we be that it brought on his cancer?

Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer for men in his age group. There are about 8500 cases a year. Your chances of getting it are about 1 in 250, according to the American Cancer Society. You certainly don't need to dope to get it.

I wish more sports writers really emphasized that cycling is a team sport. Besides the training, Armstrong had a singular focus on the Tour, while other teams always had multiple goals. His teams never contested flat sprint stages, either. And, there's no salary cap, so he had much larger budgets in later years. All those elements, rather than some super-drug, are what won the races. Even if he doped, his competitors clearly did, too. The 7 victories resulted from other factors, including some darn good luck.

Some good points: also Lance's attention to the Tour was different from the European cyclists, who compromised their training for it by focusing on other events, such as the Giro. 

Ok,you're selecting the questions you'll choose to respond to, but I'll give it a try. Frankie and Betsy were compelled to testify under oath in the SCA matter some years ago. They testified, and continue to say this was truthful testimony, that Lance stated in his hospital room that he'd consumed steroids and other PEDs. They appear to have lost jobs and generally suffered for this testimony. It is hard to find any motivation for this testimony other than a desire to tell the truth under oath. Do you believe their testimony? If it turns out to be a true statement of the situation preceeding Lance's diagnosis of testicular cancer should this be made public as a warning of the hazards of doping? Think Lyle Alzado, others. Thank you for any comments you may have.

I don't doubt Frankie and Betsy Andreu testified to what they thought they heard, but it's a new one to me that they lost jobs over it, especially since Frankie and Lance remained pretty amicable, to the point that Lance gave Frankie interviews in his new job as a TV reporter at the Tour. As for the content of their testimony, interested readers should look it up, it's available online, as well as the testimony of Lance's doctors and nurses at the hospital, who testified that they never had such a conversation, nor do their case notes reflect it. Also, I believe Lance's oncologist testified that he would not have conducted such an interview with a patient in front of other people. So readers should consider all of the testimony and make up their own minds.

The government better get more evidence than they supposedly had on Barry Bonds before they go to trial.


Sally, first of all, I am a huge LA fan (and SJ fan) . . . but I have to say, there was never a time when I was not absolutely certain that at some point in his career Lance doped. You are talking about one of the most competitive athletes ever, an athlete who became an expert in blood chemistry due to his illness, and who was competing in the most physically grueling sport on the earth. No way he could have resisted the temptation. We need to shift the discussion to . . . so what? It doesn't diminish what he's accomplished, either in cycling or in the fight against cancer. This witch hunt won't accomplish anything.

and yet another perspective.

Sally: If your daughter beat cancer after being inspired to fight by Lance, does anything else he did matter? If he hadn't won in cycling would she have won in sickness? How do the questions of the legitimacy of his cycling victory matter to the cancer community? Thanks for all the written inspiration at a time when it really counted, David

This is very much the response I've been hearing from the cancer community. It seems like two positions are being sketched out: people in the sports world who are concerned with his cycling, and people in the medical community who are concerned with his anticancer work.

Has anyone talked to Linda? She was such a huge part of who he bacame as seen in your book. I would think she would be a great intervew, or Kristen! They were married at the height of it all.

I haven't spoken to Linda in some time but she stands as one of the great interviews. Funny, salty, candid, and fiercely protective of her boy. Linda went from a Kroger's checkout girl to an executive with a technology company. She's a great success story in her own right.

Lance put up a lot of money to support anti-doping enforcement and then was accused of trying to "buy-off" the enforcement side. More of the rabid anti-Lance crowd. I am more tired of them than of the Lance defenders.

Still another view of Lance. 

You mention that the hard evidence is the confessions of Hamilton and others. Does that mean you disregard the work of David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, who argue there is evidence Armstrong tested positive for EPO? What about the positive test for corticosteroids? If you disregard this, can I ask why? Thanks for answering our questions!

I certainly don't disregard them, and again, the curious should read their arguments, as Walsh and Ballester are respected journalists in their own country. I'm just saying I was satisfied by the independent investigator's conclusion in the last go round.

Since you didn't see the interview with Hamilton, let me give you my take: while attempting to appear reluctant, he in fact appears to be lying (shaking his head 'no' while verbalizing 'yes'), and not answering questions directly; neither did Frankie. Do you think a 'body reading' expect could add some clues?

I don't go in for body reading, do you? It feels too much like a Bill O'Reilly segment. I prefer "verifiable facts," to quote my hero Bob Woodward.

Is a confession from Lance the only proof that you'd accept?

Nope. I'd certainly accept a positive test. How about you?

Armstrong's genetic gifts relative to cycling have been well publicized. However, is the difference between Lance and the other athletes razor thin? Aren't all the top cyclists genetic freaks relative to the average Joe? I would think that they all had to work hard to make it to that level, even with their genetic advantages. Therefore, it would seem to me that to win without using PEDs, especially 7 times would appear to be highly unlikely. BTW, and I don't think I'm alone here, none of this takes away from Lance's efforts for cancer research and treatment. Aren't many of our present day icons , Lance included, complex and flawed? It certainly makes them more interesting.

There are definitely evolutionary leaps in athletes. Michael Jordan was one. Martina Navratilova another. Tiger Woods another. Kids comes along with extraordinary  physical gifts, and when you marry those gifts to a burning soul, you get an athlete who is the perfect storm. Lance always struck me as one of those. He was a prodigy as a young triathlete, back when he was 14 or so, he had a big enough engine to compete against grown men. So there is something extraordinary there. Also, if memory serves, he produces less lactic acidic than a lot of his peers, which means he has a fortunate gift for tolerating pain. Finally, people should read a fascinating book called Talent is Overrated, which identifies some of the traits we commonly refer to as world class.

What advice would you give to Lance right now, in terms of how to handle this situation publicly, if he asked you?

Tell the truth. Candor wins every time. But that's my journalistic training, and I've never been rich or had millions of people depend on me for their ideals.

If everyone is using these banned substances in cycling, when does the point come where they stop being banned? If they are so hard to detect, but easy to get, should they just say, go ahead and do whatever you gotta do? The guys still have to get on the bikes and ride after all... I just don't see a solution to the current situation that will be feasibly implementable.

I don't believe the current system is working, nor do I think it's fair. Also, each sports is highly individual, and different athletes need different therapies or are in more distress, which begs some interesting questions about performance and health. To me, conscience is what we should be fostering. Golf has an honor code. And you know what? It works pretty well. 

I agree with your statement about testing - the WADI procedures wouldn't stand up in court (no verifiable chain of evidence, for one) and the statistics of testing are NOT black and white, as I can tell from my own experience in drug discovery. All testing is an inference, but the fact that LA was consistently negative does carry a lot of weight. If someone only has a 1% chance of getting caught in a single test, they have a 64% of getting caught in 100 tests.

Huh. Well that's interesting if true. thanks for writing.

I just want to remind people that Marion Jones never failed a drug test. And Tyler Hamilton didn't fail drug tests during the period he admits he was doping. Clearly, the people who are cheating know how to beat the drug tests. So that really doesn't prove anything. Some people allege Dr. Ferrari's role was teaching them how to dope and beat the testing.

And yet another counterpoint.

Any comment regarding the Mike Wise column appearing on the WaPo website just a few hours ago, arguing, like a previous post here, that Lance Armstrong should just admit it?

Mike Wise is a terrific writer and also a friend.

With respect to Tyler, Lance's people are saying he lied before so he's a liar now. He lied about not taking drugs. Now he's lying about taking drugs? So which is it? As for George Hincapie, you say that no one has confirmed what George may or may not have done. But as a smart person and as investigative journalist, who is paid to parse words, can you point to me where in Mr. Hincapie's public statements is a denial as the substance of CBS reported?

Nope, Hincapie has not denied it, he has simply no-commented, as another smart-parsing journo, Mike Wise, points out in today's column

Sally, If they end up taking the TDF medals away who would they give them to? If almost everyone was doing the same thing doesn't something need to happen to cycling on a massive scale to bring the fans back to a more healthy focal point?

Yes. It's the same problem with Marion Jones' medals. Who to give them to?

The question I would have asked Hamilton is if every racer was clean who wins those 7 Tour De France's? In other words, was Lance only great due to the doping or did the doping just level the playing field?

I would like to hear the answer to that question too. 

Hi Sally, Did you ask to do this online chat today? Or did someone at the Post ask you to do it? If this chat was your choice, do you think that not being objective is appropriate for a chat on this website?

I was asked to do it, and agreed to do it, because I've written favorably about Lance in this paper before, and because it only seems fair that readers should be allowed to ask some tough questions now that Lance is under investigation. Not sure how illuminating it was for readers, but at least folks got to air their views in this forum.

Okay folks, I've overstayed my welcome. Thanks for writing in, and for the discussion. Hope I got in a good cross section of questions.

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Sally Jenkins
Sally Jenkins, a sports columnist for The Washington Post, rejoined the newspaper as a full-time columnist in summer 2000. She previously worked for the newspaper from 1983 to1989. Before rejoining The Post, Jenkins was a senior writer at Sports Illustrated. Jenkins is the author of "The Real All Americans: The Team That Changed a Game, a People, a Nation" and and co-author of "The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy" (co-written with historian John Stauffer), "It's Not About the Bike" (co-written with cyclist Lance Armstrong); "Reach for the Summit" and "Raise the Roof" (both co-written with women's basketball coach Pat Summit); and "A Coach's Life" (co-written with college basketball coach Dean Smith). Jenkins is a graduate of Stanford University. She is a native of Fort Worth, Texas and lives in New York City.
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